Simply RFiD: Asset Tracking, Supply Chain Management and Surveillance Systems

April 8, 2013 Impinj

Simply RFiD: Asset Tracking, Supply Chain Management and Surveillance Systems

SimplyRFiD’s NOX solution, powered by Impinj RFID, is an asset tracking system that can monitor the location of computers, equipment, people and other property. NOX has the capability to integrate RFID and video footage—revolutionizing video surveillance and delivering real-time benefits to organizations across all industries. Carl Brown, SimplyRFiD’s Founder and President, shares insights into the benefits of an RFID-enabled asset surveillance solution and some key considerations when deploying a system.

  1. What applications and markets do you serve?
    Our customers usually want to track and identify errors in their supply chain, to monitor items so that they are not lost or misplaced, and to get complete accuracy in their shipping and logistics processes.

    We have a diverse product line addressing supply chain, surveillance, and general asset tracking. Probably the most-unique line is our surveillance side of the business where we integrate RFID and video to make it easy for companies to find things quickly. We leverage all of our products together to create a complete solution.

    We have customers that use the surveillance part of Nox to locate parts of movie cameras they have mis-placed and they use the asset tracking side for general inventory. We also have customers using supply chain to manage millions of items a year and use the surveillance to check linked video events for quality improvement when defects are discovered. RFID delivers accuracy that was never possible because it was time consuming and error prone to implement a manual process..

  2. What benefits are customers getting from the NOX solution?

    There are some straight forward benefits — like one customer prevented the loss of a $10,000 camera lens when Nox alerted them to an extra lens going out a door.

    But, RFID (and Nox) also have miraculous powers of observation.

    For instance, ask a company how accurate they are, they will say 100%. But, measuring the results is astounding. We helped one company go from 5% shipment error rates to 0.2% error rates. In the end, RFID is not about cost savings but customer service and awesomeness factor. So, Nox helps good companies become awesome companies.

  3. What are the most important things to consider when implementing an asset surveillance system?

    Tagging! Without a doubt, this is the hardest part of every system we deploy. There are so many great tag choices out there so, it’s not really about finding the right tag, but putting an actual tag on an item.

    My favorite story is how we had a customer order 3,000,000 asset tags. I told them to just start with 50,000 a month rather than get deluged. After two years, they finally ordered their second batch of tags. So, putting the tagging project plan together is critical if you want to see measurable results.

    Another critical but overlooked item is tag filtering. We find a lot of first timers order tags and ask that that tag ID numbers “start with 1 through 100,000.” This gets their tags conflicted with other companies’ tag ID’s that followed the same generic numbering system. We recommend, at a minimum, to put a header value on all of tags so you can differentiate your tags from everyone else’s. The DoD (Department of Defense) has a great standard for unique numbering and it’s open for anyone to use.

    Gosh, I could go on for a lot of things. But, I’ll give a few more bullet points to think about that are critical in planning and not obvious until you’ve done a few RFID projects:

    Bounce and Over-Read: How do you define zones (Front Door, Back Door, Elevator) that work well with both long-range, label-type RFID tags and short-range, metal-mount RFID tags. A long-range tag can read 40 feet or more and you need enough sensitivity to know when it is ‘at the door’ or near it. Meanwhile, the common metal-mount, laptop-durable RFID tag will only read 5-10 feet. We developed three techniques we call Flicker, Sticky and Suppression to deal with these inherent problems in RFID. We create Suppression zones that suppress long-range tags from getting read by portals and use a Flicker threshold to prevent stray reads. Meanwhile, we enable Sticky at portals to have different zones fight to ‘stick the tag in their zone’. It’s the hardest part of working with RFID — some tags will read a hundred feet and you need a way to squelch them. A single reader isn’t smart enough — you need a network of antennas to know where a tag is.

    Dealing with a Very-High Read Rate: A typical reader will generate hundreds of tag reads per second. A few solutions exist ” in-reader “ to deal with this, but that’s not usually effective in surveillance operations because you need to measure when a tag arrives and when it leaves. You also may have antennas pointing in different zones. So, we developed Linger (absent threshold) to measure how long a tag stays. This allows us to just store a single event (Present and Absent) for each tag rather than hundreds of reads. This can be important when you are looking at when something disappeared, want to check for things like booster bags or tag removal events. On that same subject, you really need a trigger system to deal with the exceptions. And, that’s what surveillance is all about: Millions of monotonous moments and one exciting event! Nox handles that – alerting you when a tag goes where it is not permitted — Nox takes away the monotony and leaves just the fun!

    UHF Gen2 RFID is an amazing technology and in 2008, it became more so. So many people compare it to EAS (Electronic Article Surveillance) or access control. But, it’s not! The primary difference is we deal with (on average) 100,000 tag read operations per second comparing tags moving and deciding on what the tags are doing. EAS systems are either on/off. Lastly, access control is short range and 1-2 operations per second. Each has its point, but UHF can do all of these things, it is just getting started.

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